Pictures of Buccaneers fans at the game against the San Diego Chargers.
Tampa Bay's latest road conquest came at San Diego on Sunday afternoon, a 28-21 comeback win over the Chargers that pushed the Bucs into a first-place tie in the NFC South. The visitors scored the go-ahead points on a Cameron Brate touchdown catch in the fourth quarter and then had to hold off the home team for nine more minutes.
Shortly after Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense got the football back and mounted their comeback attempt, a chant rose from the crowd. Key word in the chant: "Defense."
Amazingly, the number of Bucs fans amid the 53,000 in attendance at Qualcomm was enough to make the visiting team feel as if it were home, and that helped during a crucial moment in the game. Tampa Bay held on to victory when Keith Tandy intercepted Rivers at the goal line with three minutes to play, setting off a thunderous response from the red-clad portion of the crowd.
"Man, we had an awesome contingent of Bucs fans here at Qualcomm today," said Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter after the game. "That was impressive. They had the lower bowl behind our bench full."
Twenty-one hundred miles from home, the Buccaneers had arguably their most impressive showing of fans on the road in many years on Sunday. Most of the visiting fans were concentrated in the lower section on the side of the stadium right behind Tampa Bay's bench. It was a very noticeable swath of red among the blue and gold home crowd. The Bucs enjoyed a home-away-from-home atmosphere in their season-opening win at Atlanta, too, but given the distance between Tampa and San Diego, Sunday's show of support was particularly uplifting.
Sunday's win was the Buccaneers' fourth in a row, and that includes home wins over Chicago in Week 10 and Seattle in Week 12. During the first half of the season, the Bucs had struggled at Raymond James Stadium and several of their games had featured the above phenomenon, but in reverse. The Bucs' rousing win over the Seahawks, at team that otherwise hasn't lost since October, seemed to be a turning point, however. The atmosphere at Raymond James Stadium was electric for that game and Koetter acknowledged later that week how much help it provided his team in a tight 14-5 victory.
Now, with the Buccaneers very much in the thick of a playoff race with four weeks to go, Koetter fully expects the same sort of crowd next Sunday when the New Orleans Saints come to town.
"I know it's going to be rocking," he said. "We're going to need it for Drew Brees and the Saints next week. Let's fill that place up, no Saints jerseys in the lower bowl, and let's be loud as hell for the Saints."